After a half-decade of litigation, a court has ordered the U.S. Department of Agriculture and its sub-agency the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to develop an appropriate and meaningful conservation program for the highly endangered Southwestern willow flycatcher. The court gave the federal government fifteen months to undertake a decisionmaking process to develop this conservation program, which must include review under the National Environmental Policy Act, consultation under the Endangered Species Act, and public comment. This order comes in the wake of the court’s finding in August 2017 that these agencies violated section 7(a)(1) of the Endangered Species Act after they released hundreds of thousands of non-native, invasive beetles throughout the Southwest to defoliate saltcedar trees that provide nesting habitat to flycatchers, but then walked away from the program when beetles reached flycatcher critical habitat without implementing any mitigation measures to ameliorate the ongoing effects of their beetle release program. The remedial order can be found here.
Photo courtesy of National Park Service